Reflection for Sunday November 29 – Fr. Rob Bourcy

Readings: Jeremiah 33:14-16; 1 Thessalonians 3:12—4:2; Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

My father was a funeral director. I grew up around the reality that all people die eventually.

The earliest recollection I have of experiencing a personal death was that of my great grandmother whom I loved and called “Nonny.”

I remember sitting next to Nonny and she would rub my neck which I kept upright because it felt so good. She died when I was six years old. I remember standing next to her daughter, my great aunt Ruth, beside Nonny’s casket during calling hours.

It wasn’t frightening to be beside Nonny and keep vigil with the family. As young as I was, I somehow understood because of my great grandmother’s and my family’s faith that this was part of life, part of life that would now be blessed eternally because of Nonny’s faith in Jesus.

I didn’t know it then, exactly, because of my age, but today’s passage from Luke was happening in my great grandmother’s dying and our family gathering to celebrate her life together. It was as if we knew to “stand erect and raise our heads because Nonny’s redemption was at hand.”

This past year, 54 years later, I attended the calling hours of my parishioner’s father and grandfather. Before we said prayers anticipating the beginning of calling hours, I observed the grandchildren, all of a very young age, going to the casket of their grandfather. It was an open casket. Parents alongside their own children comfortably gathered. Personal prayers were spoken and brief stories shared. One granddaughter lovingly rubbed the head of her “Poppa.”

I was moved by the family’s presence and how they all “stood erect and raised their heads because their Poppy’s redemption was at hand.”
We are beginning our Advent. Our Sacred texts this first Sunday of Advent are not meant to frighten us even though it may seem so. They are given to instill hope, longing and blessing because God has great things in mind for the faithful.

The great prophet Jeremiah speaks of the “just shoot.” Jeremiah spoke promise and hope even if his times were marked with destruction, evil ways and corruption. This proclamation of Jeremiah could even describe our current events with local street violence in both our city and suburbs, killings in our community and the recent atrocities in Paris.

But today, as in Jeremiah’s day, there is a “just shoot.” This shoot is Jesus. With the Lord Jesus, whom we do know, there will be justice and mercy.
Luke shares the words of Jesus: “be vigilant…” Yes, there are many things of concern happening all around us…but one need not be frightened. None of is frightened when we know and understand that God has great things in store for those who are redeemed by God’s unconditional love.

Advent is described as a time for waiting. For Christmas Day, perhaps—yes we need to acknowledge the One born into our lives. But it is also about waiting, longing and being ready (each day of our lives) for His Second Coming, which will be more glorious than the first.

And how shall we do this?

A “Year of Mercy” will begin in a few days as initiated by Pope Francis. Perhaps we could begin by practicing standing erect, looking ahead to Jesus’ Second Coming by living as he requested…loving God before all else and our neighbors as ourselves.

Yes, let each of us stand erect, but also in this coming “Year of Mercy,” may we help our sisters and brothers stand erect as well. May all our heads be raised together in meeting the needs of the poor, the sick, the imprisoned and those weighed down by daily troubles. May we visit the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy and pray them into action by our lives.
And if we will do this act of love in His name, modeling it before our families and friends, our community and our world, I suspect one day perhaps, others will gather at our death, standing erect with heads raised, and be comforted that by our life, they have seen redemption at hand and they will be at peace with our going home to our God.

Advent. It is a blessed time indeed to be vigilant to the promises of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Rob Bourcy
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